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Guide to Thrift Store Shopping

Updated on October 3, 2009


It is estimated that a typical American family will spend about $500 per child during the back-to-school season.  Between $400 and $450 of this will go to new clothes and shoes.  If you are the parent of multiple children, the amount you can spend on back to school shopping can quickly add up.  To reduce the cost, try consignment shops and thrift stores.

Consignment shops are usually privately owned and the clothes are typically in better condition than thrift stores.  Consignment stores take clothes from people looking to make a bit of money, so they can be pickier about what they take.  These stores usually don’t take anything that is torn or stained, and some stores (usually in wealthier neighborhoods) refuse to take anything that isn’t brand name.  If you need formal or professional clothes, these are typically the best places to shop.  If you cannot sew or make basic alterations, make sure to look for items that are up-to-date, fit well, and do not show a lot of wear.  Clothes from consignment shops are usually easier to get image-conscious kids and teenagers to accept, as well.  If your child complains about getting “used” clothes, point out that a lot of the clothes in these shops were never worn (show him or her the department store price tags on some of the clothes to prove it).  In general, expect to pay about 10%-35% of the item’s original value.  Any clothes priced more than this can usually be found at a good sale at the mall for cheaper.

Thrift shops are typically run by charitable organizations that receive most of their items as donations.  This means that most of their items would not be accepted by private consignment shops, and you will very rarely see a name-brand.  In addition, many items show a lot of wear, are very outdated, and/or have problems such as tears, missing buttons, and stains.  In general, trying to find good, professional clothing and formal wear will be a waste of time, although there are plenty of people who have found a great deal on such clothing at these shops.  These shops can be great for people who need to find cheap clothing for everyday use and manual labor jobs.  Many parents also use these shops to find infant and toddler clothing.  While some of the children’s items show signs of wear, others are simply cheaper brands that kids outgrew and that a consignment shop wouldn’t take.

Finding good clothes shouldn’t be too difficult or too expensive.  The key is to start planning early and look for deals off-season.  


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    • dyesebel10 profile image


      9 years ago from USA

      nice hub


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